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In Australia, cereals are divided into autumn-winter-spring growing (winter cereals) and spring-summer-autumn growing (summer cereals). In temperate regions winter cereals such as wheat, oats, barley and rye are often grown in rotation with pastures, such as subterranean clover, medics or lucerne, and with other winter crops such as canola, field peas and lupins. Rice, maize and sorghum are summer cereals, often being grown in rotation with winter cereals in some areas.
Wheat is produced in all states but primarily on the mainland in a narrow crescent known as the wheat belt. Inland of the Great Dividing Range, the wheat belt stretches in a curve from central Queensland through New South Wales, Victoria and southern South Australia. In Western Australia, the wheat belt continues around the south-west of the state and some way north, along the western side of the continent.
Graph 16.17 shows wheat production in Australia from 1908 to 2008.
In 2007-08, farmers planted 12.6 mill. ha to wheat and harvested 13.6 mill. tonnes. Western Australia planted and harvested the most wheat followed by New South Wales and South Australia (table 16.16 and graph 16.18). In 2007-08, just over half of Australia's wheat was exported for human consumption. A small proportion of production is used domestically for human consumption, with lower quality grain being used for domestic stock feed.
New varieties of wheat have enabled it to be grown in more marginal areas. In particular the development of dual purpose winter wheat varieties which, like oats, allow grazing of the plant up to a few months prior to harvest, have become very popular in some areas.
16.18 WHEAT PRODUCTION AND AREA, By state - 2007-08
Oats are traditionally grown in moist, temperate regions. However, improved varieties and management practices have enabled oats to be grown over a wider range of soil and climatic conditions. Oats have a high fodder feed value and, with the exception of dual purpose varieties of wheat, produce a greater bulk of growth than other winter cereals. They need less cultivation, and respond well to superphosphates and nitrogen. Oats have two main uses - as a grain crop, and as a fodder crop. Fodder crops can either be grazed in the initial stages of growth and then locked up for a period prior to harvesting for grain, or else mown and baled for hay or cut for chaff.
The majority of Australian oats harvested for grain is used domestically for stock feed purposes. A small proportion of high quality grain is used either domestically or exported for human consumption.
In 2007-08, farmers planted 1.2 mill. ha of oats and harvested 1.5 mill. tonnes. Western Australia produced the most oats (840,000 tonnes), followed by Victoria (335,000 tonnes) (table 16.16 and graph 16.19).
16.19 oats production and area by state - 2007-08
This cereal contains two main groups of varieties, 2-row and 6-row (the number of rows referring to the number of rows of seed on each stalk). The former is generally, but not exclusively, preferred for malting purposes. Barley is grown principally as a grain crop, although in some areas it is used as a fodder crop for grazing, with grain being subsequently harvested if conditions are suitable. It is often grown as a rotation crop with wheat, oats and pasture. As barley has a short growing period, it may provide quick grazing or timely fodder supplies when other sources are not available. Barley grain may be crushed to meal for stock feed or sold for malting.
In 2007-08, 7.2 mill. tonnes of barley were harvested from 4.9 mill. ha (table 16.16 and graph 16.20). The largest areas planted were in Western Australia (1.4 mill. ha), South Australia (1.2 mill. ha), and Victoria (1.1 mill. ha). Production was highest in Western Australia with 2.7 mill. tonnes, followed by Victoria and South Australia, 1.8 mill. tonnes and 1.7 mill. tonnes of barley respectively.
16.20 barley production and area by state - 2007-08
The sorghums are summer growing crops which are used in a number of ways: grain sorghum for grain; sweet or fodder sorghum, Sudan grass and Columbus grass for silage, green feed and grazing; and broom millet for brooms and brushware. However, the grain is used primarily as stock feed and is an important source for supplementing other coarse grains for this purpose.
Grain sorghum was only grown during 2007-08 in significant quantities in Queensland and New South Wales, with the former growing 2.5 mill. tonnes on 661,000 ha (table 16.16 and graph 16.21).
16.21 grain sorghum production and area by state - 2007-08
Almost all of Australia's rice is grown in New South Wales, with production centred in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. Rice production is dependent on supplies of irrigation water and, therefore, is significantly affected by reductions in irrigation water allocations available to farmers.
In 2007-08, rice plantings covered 2,000 ha and produced 18,000 tonnes (table 16.16).
Australia produces an extremely wide variety of vegetables, driven largely by demand from a cosmopolitan population. Many vegetables, such as spring onions, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes are grown close to major capital cities, taking advantage of proximity to markets and low transport costs. However, the majority of vegetables are produced in the major irrigation areas of each state and territory, where access to land and water are the key drivers of investment.
In 2007-08, potatoes were by far the largest vegetable crop in terms of both area and production, covering 38,200 ha and growing 1.4 mill. tonnes (table 16.14). South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania produced almost 80% of the total potato crop. Tomato production ranked second with Victoria and Queensland producing 80% of the 382,000 tonnes grown nationally.
Fruit (excluding grapes)
A wide variety of fruit is grown in Australia, ranging from tropical fruit such as mangoes and bananas in the north to pome, stone and berry fruits in temperate regions. The most significant crops in terms of production weight in 2007-08 were oranges, apples and bananas (tables 16.14 and 16.15).
Grapes are a temperate crop requiring predominantly winter rainfall and warm to hot summer conditions for ripening. Almost all grape production in Australia depends on irrigation water as a supplement to rainfall. An absence of late-spring frosts is essential to prevent the loss of developing fruit. Grapes are grown for winemaking, drying and table use. The better known grape producing areas include the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Riverland, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra (all in South Australia); Sunraysia and the Yarra Valley (Victoria); the Hunter and Riverina (New South Wales); the Swan Valley and Margaret River (Western Australia); and the Tamar Valley and Coal River Valley (Tasmania).
In 2007-08, Australia's vineyards produced 2.0 mill. tonnes of grapes on 166,000 ha. Tables 16.22 and 16.23 show the area of vines and the quantity of grapes produced. South Australia produced 41% of the total grape harvest with 812,000 tonnes while New South Wales (554,000 tonnes) and Victoria (477,000 tonnes) also produced large quantities (table 16.24).
Canola is Australia's most commonly grown oilseed crop and is used in the production of oil and as a protein source in stock feed. Over the past four years canola has accounted for about 90% of the value of all oilseed production. Canola was first planted in Australia in 1980 but it was not until the late 1980's that high yielding blackleg-resistant varieties started to became available. By the early 1990's, production was becoming more widespread and canola was emerging as the main oilseed crop. From a production level of 70,000 tonnes in 1990-91, the record high of 2.8 mill. tonnes was achieved nine years later in 1999-2000. In 2007-08 farmers harvested 1.2 mill. tonnes, just over double the previous year's crop weight (table 16.14 and graph 16.25).
Cotton is grown mainly in inland areas of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, primarily for its fibre (lint), and relies heavily on irrigation water to produce profitable yields. When the cotton is mature, seed cotton is taken to a gin where it is separated (ginned) into cotton lint and cotton seed. The lint is used for yarn while the cotton seed is further processed at an oil mill, where the short fibres (linters) remaining on the cotton seed after ginning are removed. These fibres are too short to make into cloth, but are used for wadding, upholstery and paper. The seeds are then separated into kernels and hulls. The hulls are used for stock feed and as fertiliser, while the kernels are crushed to extract oil. The oilcake residue (crushed kernels) is ground into meal, which is a protein roughage, and is used as a stock feed.
In 2007-08, cotton lint production was estimated at 119,000 tonnes from 69,000 ha harvested (table 16.14). New South Wales was the dominant growing state with 65% of total production (77,000 tonnes) on 40,000 ha. Queensland harvested 29,000 ha and produced 42,000 tonnes of cotton lint.
Sugar cane is grown commercially in Australia along the east coast over a distance of more than 2,000 kilometres from Maclean in northern New South Wales to Mossman in Queensland. Small quantities are also grown in the north of Western Australia. In 2007-08 a total of 381,000 ha of sugar cane was cut for crushing (table 16.14).
More than 90% (29.8 mill. tonnes) of the 32.6 mill. tonnes of sugar cane cut in 2007-08 was grown in Queensland from 355,000 ha (table 16.16).
Cattle, sheep and pigs are the main livestock grown in Australia and have been present since the earliest days of European settlement.
Tables 16.26 and 16.27 show the number of cattle, sheep and lambs, and pigs from 2005-06 to 2007-08.
Cattle farming occurs in all states and territories. While dairy cattle are restricted mainly to southern and coastal districts, beef cattle are concentrated in Queensland and New South Wales.
Beef cattle production is often combined with cropping, dairying and sheep. In the northern half of Australia, cattle properties and herd sizes are very large, pastures are generally unimproved, fodder crops are rare and beef is usually the only product. The industry is more intensive in the south, with higher stocking rates per hectare, improved pastures and use of fodder crops, rotational grazing practices and increased inputs such as fertiliser and animal health products.
Cattle numbers in Australia increased to a peak of 31.8 mill. in 1976 after which time seasonal conditions and profitability saw numbers drop dramatically. For the five years from 1984 the size of the herd remained relatively stable. Between 1989 and 1998 cattle numbers increased gradually, despite unfavourable weather conditions continuing in many parts of Australia. After a slight decline in 1999, cattle numbers increased to 27.9 mill. in 2002. Dry conditions over much of the country in 2002-03 saw cattle numbers fall but improved conditions in some regions in the following three years resulted in the national herd reaching a 30 year high of 28.4 million head. A return to drier weather has since seen numbers decline.
Graph 16.28 shows total cattle (milk and meat) numbers in Australia from 1888 to 2008.
16.28 CATTLE(a) - 1888 to 2008
By 30 June 2008, the Australian cattle herd numbered 27.3 mill. head consisting of 2.5 mill. milk cattle and 24.8 mill. meat cattle. Victoria had the most milk cattle (1.6 mill.) while Queensland grazed the most meat cattle (11.7 mill.) (table 16.27 ).
Sheep numbers reached a peak of 180 mill. in Australia in 1970. In general, numbers have fallen since then. Poor market prospects for wool after 1990 had a marked impact on the flock size with sheep numbers falling rapidly until 1995, after which there was a gradual decline until 1999. By 30 June 2003, sheep and lambs had fallen to 99.3 mill. with numbers being severely affected by drought conditions throughout much of the country. Following a slight recovery in 2004 and 2005, sheep and lamb numbers in 2008 fell to 76.9 mill.head - their lowest level in 88 years - as the industry, already feeling the effects of drought, reacted to falling demand for wool and higher lamb prices. New South Wales carried the most stock with 26.4 mill. head followed by Western Australia (17.7 mill.) and Victoria (16.8 mill.) (table 16.27).
Graph 16.29 shows total sheep and lamb numbers in Australia from 1888 to 2008.
16.29 SHEEP AND LAMBS(a) - 1888 to 2008
Pig farming is a highly intensive industry. The majority of pigs are grown in specially designed sheds which provide a controlled environment conducive to the efficient production of large numbers of animals. Recent changes in the Australian pig industry have seen many smaller producers leave the industry and existing producers increase their size of operations in an attempt to remain viable.
In 2008, pigs numbered 2.4 mill. head with New South Wales the dominant state (770,000 head), followed by Queensland (610,000) and Victoria (394,000) (table 16.27).
Poultry farming is also a highly intensive industry, with the majority of poultry raised in large sheds which provide the birds with a stable environment protected from the elements. The poultry farming industry consists of two streams - meat production and egg production - both being major users of feed grains. Egg production has begun to move towards layer hens being housed in non-caged systems. In June 2008, poultry farmers were holding 73.9 mill. chickens for meat production and 14.8 mill. for egg production (table 16.30).
Dairying is a major Australian agricultural industry. The estimated gross value of dairy production at farm-gate prices in 2007-08 was $4,572m (table 16.31), which was a 44% increase on the previous year and represented 11% of the gross value of agricultural production.
Most dairy production occurs in high rainfall coastal fringe areas where climate and natural resources allow production to be based on year-round pasture grazing. This enables efficient, low-cost milk production. With the exception of several inland river schemes, pasture growth generally depends on natural rainfall. Feedlot-based dairying is expanding, although it remains uncommon.
Milk production over the last decade has been in decline following industry deregulation and several years of less than favourable seasonal conditions. In 2007-08, the trend continued with total milk production falling 370 million litres (4%) to 9,212 million litres (table 16.31).
Average annual per person milk consumption has stabilised at around 100 litres since the mid-1980's. According to Dairy Australia data for 2007-08, Australians consumed 104 litres of milk, 11.8 kilograms of cheese, 6.9 kilograms of yoghurt and 4.1 kilograms of butter/blends per person.
In 2007-08 Australia exported dairy products valued at $2.6b (1.4% of total merchandise exports). Milk, cream and milk products (excluding butter and cheese) contributed $1.4b, while cheese and curd, and butter and other fats and oils derived from milk brought in $968m and $195m respectively.
Meat production and slaughterings
Tables 16.32 and 16.33 show details of slaughtering and meat production from abattoirs, and from commercial poultry and other slaughtering establishments. They include estimates of animals slaughtered on farms and by country butchers. The data relate only to slaughtering for human consumption and do not include animals condemned or those killed for boiling down.
Production of beef in 2008-09 was virtually static at 2,120,000 tonnes (table 16.33).
In 2008-09, lamb production decreased 12,000 tonnes (3%) to 423,000 tonnes while mutton production decreased 23,000 tonnes (9%) to 235,000 tonnes.
Significant changes have taken place in the pig meat producing industry in recent years. Capital investment and corporate takeovers have seen the emergence of a few large companies producing a significant proportion of all pig meat sold in Australia. These moves, and the trend to more intensive and efficient production techniques, have seen pig meat production rise steadily since the mid -1970's when production dipped to a low of 174,000 tonnes. Recently there has been a reduction in pig meat production with a fall of 14% to 324,000 tonnes in 2008-09.
Table 16.34 shows the gross value of livestock slaughterings over recent years. The 2007-08 value of total slaughterings and other disposals decreased by 2% to $12.1b. Poultry slaughterings increased by 26% in 2007-08 to $1.6b, while cattle and calf slaughterings decreased by 8% to $7.4b.
Table 16.35 shows the volume of exports of fresh, chilled or frozen meat. In 2008-09, beef was again Australia's major meat export with shipments of bone-out beef being the major component at 955,200 tonnes, 4% more than the previous year. Exports of bone-in lamb fell back 2% in 2008-09 after the previous year's record and exports of pork meat fell by 17%.
As in recent years, Japan, the United States of America and the Republic of (South) Korea continued to be the best customers for Australian beef. In 2008-09, Japan imported the most Australian beef with 368,000 tonnes although shipments were 2% less than the previous year. The United States of America was Australia's next best customer with 281,000 tonnes, an increase of 16% on the previous year. The Republic of (South) Korea purchased 127,000 tonnes.
Table 16.36 shows the number, gross weight, gross value and unit value of live sheep and cattle exported for slaughter. The number of live sheep exported for slaughter in 2008-09 numbered 4.1 million head - on par with the previous year - while the gross value of these exported sheep increased 18% to $339m. The number of live cattle exported for slaughter in 2008-09 increased 20% to 857,700 head, the highest level since 2002-03.
Australia is the world's largest wool producer, accounting for about a quarter of total production. In the last twenty years wool production has more than halved, to around 459,000 tonnes in 2007-08. Almost all of Australia's wool is exported, the major markets being China, Italy and India.
Graph 16.37 shows total wool production for the years 1908 to 1973 and then shorn wool from 1974 onwards.
16.37 Wool Production(a) - 1908 to 2008
Shorn greasy wool contains an appreciable amount of grease, dirt, vegetable matter and other material. The exact quantities of these impurities in the fleece vary with climatic and pastoral conditions, seasonal fluctuations and the breed and condition of the sheep. It is, however, the clean wool fibre that is ultimately consumed by the textile industry, and the term 'clean yield' is used to express the net wool fibre content present in greasy wool.
The gross value of wool produced in 2007-08 increased 1% on the previous year to $2.3b (table 16.38), approaching a third of the $5.9b recorded in 1988-89, the peak year in the wool boom of the 1980's.
The total amounts of taxable wool received by brokers and purchased by dealers in recent years are shown in table 16.39. They exclude wool received by brokers on which tax had already been paid by other dealers (private buyers) or brokers.